Scholarship winner starts new flying club

January 22, 2014

Zachary Piech of Wilmington, N.C., who won the Ground Effect Advisors Flying Club Scholarship in May 2013, has launched the Cape Fear Flyers Flying Club. The club, running for three months, has 10 members, including two flight instructors, and a Diamond DA40. Members hope to add another DA40 this spring.

Piech received $1,000 from AOPA, 20 hours of consultation from the Ground Effect Advisors, and various products and services from scholarship partners including David Clark, Sporty’s Pilot Shop, Signature Flight Support, Cirrus Aircraft, Schedule Master, PilotEdge SimpleFlight, and LiveATC.net. The cash prize helped cover most of the legal and filing fees needed to get the club started.  

The Diamond DA40 is a different choice for a club aircraft. Piech said he talked to pilots in the area, and they all agreed they wanted something different when it came to the club’s aircraft. “Some wanted a light sport aircraft, while others wanted a 200-knot aircraft. It was all over the place.”

Instead, Piech said he did the shopping personally. “I’m a pilot with 340 hours and an instrument rating. I wanted a simple plane with a good safety record.  But I also wanted to have a more modern fleet that would set us apart from other flying clubs,” he said. “Most clubs have [Cessna] 172s. I asked how we could get a nice modern aircraft. I settled on a 2008 DA40 XLS with a 180 hp engine.” His business bought the aircraft and signed a marketing agreement with the club.

“We have a second DA40 joining the club on Feb. 1 because another liked it so much he bought his own,” said Piech.  “He will use the same marketing agreement with the club to use the aircraft.  Ground Effect Advisors gave us the template for the aircraft agreement.”

From the beginning, Cape Fear Flyers Flying Club was designed not to be the least expensive one around, said Piech. “If you want the cheapest flying, you can go to the flight school an hour away and fly their [Cessna] 152. We wanted to have an aircraft with modern avionics,” he said.

The club has an application fee of $250, which covers start-up costs. Dues are $49 a month, and those who prepay for the year get a 15-percent discount. “When new members join, we have them pre-buy four hours,” said Piech. It costs $175 an hour wet (Hobbs) to fly the DA40, he added.

The Cape Fear Flying Club exists today because of the support of the flying club scholarship, Ground Effect Advisors, AOPA, Ray Speciale, and sponsors Sporty’s, David Clark and Schedule Master, said Piech. “The most challenging step for us was the legal framework and club documentation, a hurdle we cleared successfully thanks to the tremendous support we received.”

Piech started out by making a website with his dream. “Initially, the website was ‘Here’s what I want [the] club to look like and contact me,’” he said. He also did a listing on the AOPA Flying Club Finder and got involved with the Civil Air Patrol to meet other pilots and folks in the area. 

“I spoke with flight instructors and managers at FBOs. I went to airport commission meetings to let folks know what’s going on,” he said. “It’s that one conversation that helps pass along the information. I also posted events on SocialFlight.”

Cape Flyers Vice President Chris Sikes advised those wanting to start a club to start by doing an analysis of the local general aviation scene. “Look at what demand is there and what the supply is. One important thing that made us as successful is the quality of the airplanes we offer and the flexibility in scheduling the planes,” he said. “Find the right mix of people who have a broad background. We have members who are very intertwined into the local general aviation scene, members who are active in the business scene, and those who are active in various social clubs. We have yet to spend any money in advertising and we have grown from three founding members to eight active members and several more prospects in only four months’ time.”

Ground Effect Advisors are contemplating offering the scholarship again in 2014. It also plans to publish an e-book in 2014 that will share some of the lessons from their experiences managing flying clubs and knowledge gained by helping Piech get the Cape Fear Flyers off the ground.